NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - A North Liberty jeweler who has been battling the United States immigration system for more than a decade says the system is now keeping him from visiting his dying mother one final time.
Harold van Beek, owner of Jewelry By Harold, says he would be risking both his business and immigration status if he travels home to see his 86-year-old mother who was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia caused by heart failure on New Years Day.
"I've been fighting for this for many years now to be able to travel back and see her while she is alive, but now time is my biggest enemy, and I need to find a way to be able to go home," van Beek said.
Van Beek has been in the United States for more than a decade, spending the majority of the time on an E-2 Investor Visa, which allows him to operate a small business, but hasn't allowed him to become a U.S. citizen. Van Beek's Visa was issued in the United States, meaning his passport lacks the E-2 stamp, which allows for international travel.
Van Beek said the only way to get the stamp would be to travel to the Netherlands and apply at the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam. However, van Beek said there is no guarantee he will be allowed to return to the U.S., and in the process of leaving the U.S., both his wife and son would become illegal immigrants.
"The minute I cross the boarder, I void my Visa, and that's ridiculous," said van Beek. "The only thing that I am asking, let me come back in the same status that I am in right now just to say farewell to my mom, that's the only thing that I am asking."
Van Beek says over the past decade he has spent more than $80,000 on immigration fees and legal representation, but this experience is the worst he has ever faced.
"I've felt sad, I've felt beaten up, but not like the anger that I'm feeling right now because this is a situation that you do not want to go through," he said.
Van Beek says his only option appears to be a special bill written by a U.S. lawmaker, but so far he hasn't had any luck.
"The only simple thing that I want is to be able to basically say farewell to my mom, because it doesn't look like she's getting better," he said.